Interview with Kirsten McKenzie

What's the story behind your latest book?
Several years ago, I entered a competition in New Zealand called Make My Horror Movie. And I did quite well, but not well enough to have my story chosen for the funding on offer. That story was called The Night Watch. It bounced around in my mind, growing and changing, until after I'd finished my second historical novel, it decided it needed to be written - and it turned into PAINTED.
There is a room upstairs at our antique shop, which is full of art. Its the sort of room you don't want to go into a dusk, or too early in the morning. And it was that room which really formed the story I've written in PAINTED for me.
What are you working on next?
I'm working on the final instalment of my historical novel series, the follow up to 'Fifteen Postcards' and 'The Last Letter'. It's titled 'Telegram Home', and it will be on my publisher's desk on 1st August 2018. I'm also editing Doctor Perry, my next early Stephen King-esque horror novel, ready for release early 2018.
Describe your desk
I have a fantastic white expansive desk in the study, where I have all my treasures displayed - a rosewood writing box from 1886, a Royal Douton teapot, a Maori Adze, and art work related to my books. But I write at the dining room table where I can see the garden, and I'm closer to the coffee.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Auckland, and had the quintessential Kiwi childhood, where I never wore shoes, and as long as I was home by the time the street lights turned on, my mother was happy. In the school holidays, I was allowed to help my father at our antique shop, and this is where I developed my love for all things old and the stories they could tell. Dad died very suddenly in 2005, and my brother and I gave up our jobs to run the family business. Everyday was like a treasure hunt. You never knew what was going to come in the door, or what you'd find at the bottom of a box or at the back of a drawer. And this is where I started writing.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The fact that I have to walk my children to school. Otherwise I would probably stay in bed till eleven everyday.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I love 'The Five People You Meet In Heaven' by Mitch Albom. Because you never know how much of an impact you might have on someone's life.
The Game of Throne series by George R R Martin, purely for his ability to describe things so beautifully. And the intricate plot lines.
Another author who writes incredible far reaching tomes, is Edward Rutherfurd. His books - Paris, New York, London, Sarum etc, are incredible journey's through time, and he pulls all the threads together at the end. How does he do it?
All the JK Rowling books. Anyone who can encourage an intergenerational love for reading has to be the best thing since sliced bread.
And finally, Deborah Harkness, and her Discovery of Witches series. I never thought vampires would make it into my top five list, but she was a historian first, author second. And these three books, more than any other, inspired me to write.
What is your writing process?
Start at the beginning, and write till the end. I have to be honest and say that I never know the ending until I get there.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. I even have it here at home. I rescued it from my mother's house recently. The Little Kauri Tree. Weirdly, I'm still quite proud of it. The illustrations haven't aged as well, but the story is sound.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I can write anywhere. I've written in my downtime while I was digging at Vindolanda in England. I've written on a deck of cruise ship docked in Rio for the Olympics. I've written at the beach, by the pool, in bed. It is so transportable. And all you need, at the beginning, is a notebook and a pencil. It is the perfect job.
What do you read for pleasure?
Everything. At the moment I'm reading Stephen King's JFK time travel opus - 11/22/63. If you could go back in time to save JFK, would you?
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I pick up a lot of recommendations from Goodreads. I very very much judge a book by its cover. And if I see that one of my friends, or an author I like, is reading a book with a great cover, I'll read the blurb, then add it to my TBR list, and then buy it or read it from the library.
Who are your favorite authors?
Deborah Harkness, Stephen King, JK Rowling, Vikram Seth, Malcolm Gladwell, Naomi Klein.
Published 2018-01-26.
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